View from Japan: U.S. launches rollback against China

Photo of the USS Ronald Reagan as it crosses from the Philippine Sea into the South China Sea on July 3, 2020 to counter Chinese aggression in this region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Tarleton.

Editor’s note: this analysis was originally published by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and is reposted here with its permission.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during recent telephone talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov criticized the United States as breaking the basic rules of international relations and called on Russia to work with China to counter the United States. I doubt if Wang was aware of a cause-and-effect relationship in making this remark. We should understand that China has initially sought to revise international order, leading the U.S. to launch a counteroffensive against China in all fields from politics and economics to military, ideology, cyberspace, outer space and technology.

South China Sea Military Confrontation

While fiercely confronting with the U.S. over the novel coronavirus pandemic, China has taken a more aggressive attitude than ever on territorial issues. In the East China Sea, Chinese Coast Guard ships have repeated a reckless act of chasing Japanese fishing boats around Japan’s Senkaku Islands. In the South China Sea, China has conducted military drills. In Ladakh on the Himalayan border between China and India, Chinese military has rolled into the Indian side, resulting in a bloody clash. Furthermore, China has begun to make its territorial claim to Bhutan’s wildlife protection area.

In top front-page article on July 19, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported that a Chinese oceanographic research ship was seen sailing within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the southernmost Japanese island of Okinotorishima for the 10th straight day. As is the case with the Senkaku Islands, China has been steadily trying to make its claim a fait accompli. China has claimed that Japan cannot establish its EEZ around the island. As usual, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would defend Japan’s EEZ resolutely and unwaveringly. Such unviable statements ring hollow.

The Trump administration has apparently launched a military confrontation with China over the South China Sea. “Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an unusual statement on July 13. On July 14, the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer Ralph Johnson sailed around the Spratly Islands in a “freedom of navigation” operation to deny China’s excessive claims to maritime interests.

While China conducted military drills in the South China Sea from July 1 to 5, the U.S. Navy’s Ronald Reagan and Nimitz aircraft carriers implemented drills in the same South China Sea almost simultaneously. The two U.S. carriers staged their second drills on July 17.

Empty Arguments Supporting the Current Japanese Constitution

The U.S. has exported arms to Taiwan, withdrawn from the World Health Organization criticized for its cozy relations with China, imposed sanctions regrading China’s enforcement of a new national security law in Hong Kong, banned the U.S. federal government from doing business with companies using products of five Chinese firms including Huawei, and restricted the entry of Chinese students into the U.S., countering China in a wide range of fields.

When will it be understood that Japan sandwiched between the two big powers cannot survive by insisting to stay within the framework of the current constitution?

Tadae Takubo is Vice President of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University in Tokyo.